Time Is Running Out for Granit Xhaka at Evolving Arsenal

Nov 20, 2020, 6:00 PM GMT
Granit Xhaka
Granit Xhaka in action against Leicester in the Premier League | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

Just over a year ago, with 61 minutes on the clock against Crystal Palace, Granit Xhaka was taken off the Emirates turf by then manager Unai Emery.

The announcement was met with a rapture of cheering and a smattering of boos aimed at the midfielder. After his notorious display of frustration while walking off the pitch, the Arsenal man was stripped of the captaincy and dropped.

Xhaka's Arsenal future has been questioned over the past year and the answer has never been quite clear. But with the season now firmly up and running, does the Switzerland international have a future at the Emirates?

Well, not really. It might now be time to move on.

After that Palace game, the debate over his place at the club divided the fanbase and continues to. Understandably, many supporters wanted him gone, while others believed he needed a second chance - an argument put into song by this Arsenal fan.

It wouldn't be totally fair to say Xhaka hasn't proven his worth since that wretched evening in October last year. Up until the end of last season, he had been present in Mikel Arteta's starting XI and has actually performed fairly well when called upon. He has looked a more solid and less erratic midfielder since the Spaniard took charge.

However, through no fault of his own, the former captain may be playing out his last months at the Emirates.

The summer arrival of Thomas Partey for £45m has been anything but a cause for celebration for Xhaka. The Ghana international, as anticipated, has been a quality signing for the Gunners and has performed outstandingly since being drafted into the team. The central midfielder has already drawn comparisons to Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira for his commanding showings.

Mohamed Elneny, who will also feel like a new face for Arsenal fans, has been a revelation in midfield. After a disappointing few years in north London, the Egyptian spent last season on loan at Besiktas to get his career back on track. Elneny has come back a rejuvenated character and has since become a first team starter alongside Partey.

Granit Xhaka
"Are you not entertained?" | Visionhaus/Getty Images

He has started five league games since his reintroduction into the starting XI and has done the simple things to perfection. The Egyptian has a 93% pass success rate, which ranks third in the whole league so far this campaign. He finally looks settled in an Arsenal shirt and is providing a very reliable platform in the centre of the park for Arteta, comfortably placing him above Xhaka in the Spaniard's plans.

Elneny and Partey have formed a blossoming partnership and look to be a solid screen in front of the Arsenal back three. With the sheer power and solidity on show so far this season, it looks tough for Xhaka to permanently break into either of the two midfield positions again.

Even the creative spark of Dani Ceballos, who has become something of a fan favourite in his loan spell at Arsenal, cannot get himself into the starting XI past Elneny and Partey.

Arteta's current first choice midfield duo seem to be a permanent fixture in the Premier League- something Arsenal fans will be thrilled about, having made comparisons to the famous partnership of Vieira and Gilberto Silva after beating Manchester United at Old Trafford earlier this month.

The re-ignition of Elneny has cast a huge shadow over other midfield options who could play alongside Partey, especially Xhaka. Competition for places will only step up once Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi return from season-long loans - if they have long term futures at the club - and, with Xhaka slipping down the pecking order already, it may be time for the Switzerland international to think about pastures new.

Come the end of the season, he may have walked off the pitch in an Arsenal shirt for the last time.

facebooktwitterreddit